The National Consumers League: Fighting for Consumer and Worker Protections Since 1899

An Interview with Executive Director Sally Greenberg

Labor 411 Editor and Social Media Director, Sahid Fawaz, sat down with National Consumers League (“NCL”) Executive Director and Labor 411 Foundation board member, Sally Greenberg, to talk about the NCLS’s mission, successes, and current initiatives.

By Sahid Fawaz

SF: Thank you for taking the time to share with us your knowledge about the NCL’s work. The Labor 411 Foundation is committed to educating consumers about brands that respect workers’ rights. Can you tell me a little about the NCL’s advocacy on behalf of workers?

SG: The NCL has a long history of fighting for the working class. Florence Kelley, the organization’s original general secretary, advocated on behalf of women and children in sweatshops, mines, bakeries, and drugstores, where children as young as nine years old would work 12-hour days.

She wrote the first minimum wage laws in the U.S., which were initially overturned by courts.

The NCL continues this mission of minimum wage advocacy with its involvement in the Fight for $15 campaign and the Fight for $20 initiative in California.

We are also working to eliminate the tipped wage, replacing it with a livable minimum wage instead. In addition, we opposed the sub-minimum wage for the disabled, teenagers, and anyone else. All workers should receive a standard minimum wage.

Sally Greenberg

SF: Can you tell our readers about the lawsuit that the NCL has filed against Starbucks?

SG: The company made unsubstantiated claims on its products saying that its coffee is 100% ethically sourced. The reality, however, is that its coffee is harvested by a workforce that includes child labor that is working up to 17 hours a day on farms carrying 100-pound bags.

The lawsuit is currently in the DC court system.

SF: The Labor 411 Foundation’s Buy Your Values campaign is focused on supporting sustainable jobs where workers are treated fairly, especially in the garment industry. Can you tell us about the NCL’s work in this area?

SG: We are pushing for the Fashion Act in New York. If passed, the law would require fashion sellers to be accountable to environmental and social standards. And we have endorsed the FABRIC Act, which creates much-needed workplace protections for garment workers.

SF: Can you talk a little about some of the NCL’s current campaigns and recent successes?

SG: Definitely. One is the Obesity Bill of Rights that we helped to establish so that people can receive screening and access to treatments for dealing with the condition. Another is our push to for fact labels on alcohol products. Unlike with processed food and non-alcoholic beverages, there is no legal requirement labelling on alcoholic beverages. We are fighting for a requirement for these labels, which will provide important information such as ingredients, calories, sugar content, and any allergy-causing substances.

SF: What are the biggest challenges facing the NCL today?

SG: Industry. It often doesn’t want to pay for advancements that would better protect consumers. For example, the car industry was strongly opposed to backup cameras, which have saved many lives, especially those of children who are harder to see when backing up without a camera. The NCL was a strong advocate for a federal backup camera standard. And that standard became a reality in 2018, thanks in part to the NCL’s advocacy.

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